Project Grand Slam releases PGS 7

I’m blown away by this album. Project Grand Slam has evolved through a number of combinations since first forming in the waning years of the new century’s first decade, but band leader Robert Miller has led the outfit with a sense of identity that hasn’t waned through multiple iterations. They’ve boasted a stable lineup for many years now and each new release has shown a continued growth that few if any of their contemporaries can match. PGS 7 is their finest release yet, in my personal estimation, and the thirteen songs included on the album showcase fiery chemistry that goes beyond mere skill – instead, these musicians sound like they love playing together and it comes across from the outset.

“Yeah Yeah” brings you straight into the musical experience of PGS 7 with unabashed confidence. Following Baden Goyo’s brief keyboard flourish, the song segues into a steady and bubbling pace set by drummer Joel E. Mateo and bassist Robert Miller. The guitars, including guitarist Tristan Clark, and sax player Mario Castro provide an emphatic musical exclamation point for the track, but it’s Castro who leaves the biggest mark on the song for me thanks to his infectious saxophone hook. It’s a natural choice for a single or show opener, but the band doesn’t err either opting for “Redemption Road”, the album’s second song, as an initial single for the album. They keep the album’s musical energy level high with this second track, but the tenor is more thoughtful than we heard with the aforementioned number. The band’s musical acumen is apparent throughout the entirety of the album, but this track illustrates another abiding characteristic of the release – its intelligence. It’s a quality burning through every second of this song.


“Python”, the album’s first instrumental track, builds around the drums and bass and the surrounding band members take off from this point. It’s my favorite instrumental track from the album and a sure crowd pleaser – the thing that makes it for me, the most, is Miller and Joel Mateo’s performance in the band’s engine room driving the song towards its inevitable conclusion. The contrast between the next two songs is notable. The first, “Get Out”, is one of the more blistering lyrics we’ve yet heard from a Project Grand Slam album as it is, essentially, an angry dismissal of someone with Washington’s voice fueling its considerable oomph. The second, “With You”, however, is a fine love song in near total opposition to the opener highlighted by a perfect synthesis of emotion between the band’s delicacy and Washington’s longing vocal tone.

Another of the peaks on the release, for me, is the band’s cover of the classic 60’s pop tune “The ‘In’ Crowd”. Project Grand Slam has displayed a masterful penchant for remaking classics in their own distinctive image while still remaining faithful to the original. Mateo and Miller lay down an effective in the pocket groove and the confidence Washington shows with a song originally recorded long before her birth illustrates how she can tackle any material. This album is an embarrassment of riches for any listener, no matter whether they are casual fans or devoted aficionados, and PGS 7 will finish 2019 as one of the year’s best releases.

Clay Burton

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